notes from maggie's farm
Poutine, a dish of fried potatoes and gravy Canadian in origin, is a perfect way to showcase homemade cheese curds, with a dunk in vegetarian gravy, made with your leftover whey.
Build yours with fried potatoes-- (the perfect homemade fries can be achieved by the method used in preparing Belgian Fries.) You may also choose to use frozen fast food-type fries, in a pinch. We found ourselves in a pinch, and succumbed. Top with cheese curds-- we used those queso blanco curds we achieved last week. Douse with gravy, like the chicken-y tasting vegetarian whey gravy we've prepared (recipe, below). Scatter with sliced scallions. Indulge yourselves.
Potatoes: Nature's Prozac.
We celebrate Mother's Day this weekend. Mother's Day--the holiday with the best of intentions.
I don't mean to sound ungrateful. There are Hallmarkesque examples of honor and devotion and love of, and for, mother everywhere I look. I will happily join in the festivities, honoring the precious women in my life in thought, prayer, memory, and more. I'll join in with my 'special' mother and sister for what promises to be a lovely brunch on Saturday (thanks Dad!), and be a part of these same celebrations .
But, in reality, there will be a little bit of me missing from Sunday's observance. My two daughters, grown, and living away where Mom has been a little out of sight and out of mind, will be busy with their own lives. I don't remember it, because our memories are graciously selective in that way, but maybe I was a little bit like them when I was their age. Time and energy and attention and money spread thin in active lives, I'm sure I missed occasions I shouldn't have, too. Now I'm at the age where things slow down long enough to magnify regrets of the past.
And some of the present. Because it is with regret that I will not be spending the day with my own mother. True, we, too, are also spread thin economically and geographically, and those rising gas prices keep struggling farmers from taking to the roads with abandon, as they wish they might. But if I'm at the age where things slow down long enough to magnify regrets of the past, it's also true that precious memories are magnified, too. And its precious memories I share of, and with, my mother, today.
Last evening, I gathered with the ladies of the church for a special time of good food and fellowship, as we were honored by the Women's Ministry. Our speaker encouraged us to bring a dish that was special to each of us, and many shared beautiful heirlooms, and the beautiful memories that accompanied them.
I have many special heirlooms shared with me through my mother, my stepmother, family and friends. One that comes to mind is the depression glass platter that my grandmother lent me to bring cookies to a family gathering the first holiday of which I was a (very) young bride, and so proud of my offering. It's pink, double handled, with cherries etched into it. I now use it to hold my coffee accoutrement, and the sugar bowl from my paternal grandmother sits upon it also, and as such, I have seen it every day of my life since. I've had it for 30 years now. When I move, which has been at least 18 times since (Man, I'm really a nomad! I know I'm forgetting some..surely), it is wrapped in a heavy sweater, stuffed in my big purse, and carried in the front seat if I'm driving, or in my lap, if I'm a passenger. I didn't take it to the dinner, because I was afraid that in the storming of last night, it would suffer a mishap. And mishaps were had! But that's a story for another day.
When lifestyles change, whether through death or change of residence, and the family heirlooms are dispersed among family members, it seems the most valuable, the shiniest, the fanciest are the things most desired (and, occasionally, fought over). Mom, who is living with Parkinson's disease, is now living away from the home in which many of her belongings still reside. Her husband has lived there, alone, for several years now. Occasionally, there is some anxiety over her special things, and to be honest, I feel the anxiety, too. There are little pretties that I have dreamt of adorning my own home since I was a little girl. There are slips of paper with the names of those for which the object is intended that might just be misplaced. There are sets of goodies that have been the subject of no little consternation over how they will be divided. It would be in bad form to ask for these items of my mother's while her husband still occupies the home, of course. And really, they are just things. Precious things, but things, nonetheless.
Truth be told, there is but one thing above all that I hope and pray is available for me, when that time comes. It's perhaps the oldest, and plainest, item in my mother's kitchen. It is the old aluminum pot in which she boiled and mashed potatoes.
When I was a child, my mother was an excellent homemaker, superior to many in sewing, washing, cleaning, ironing, gardening, and so much more. She was less interested in cooking, although we never went hungry, than her daughter grew up to be, but there were dishes she prepared her way, that will always be my favorite way. She learned to make chicken fried steaks in mushroom gravy from her mother-in-law, my Gana, when she was a young homemaker who knew little more than how to boil an egg. She made several casseroles that we enjoyed, and lived on during the week. My favorite meal of hers was Sunday Roast Dinner, and she really pulled together special celebratory meals, too. Perhaps I remember them so well, because she always made mashed potatoes.
|By request, I am seated in front of the mashed potatoes.|
In my mind's ear and eye, I am in the thick of things, the last minute busy preparations of those meals. There may have been a grandmother or an aunt, or me, helping with the setting of the table, the filling of the glasses, keeping watch over the dinner rolls trying their best to be burnt. Pulling out the cold dishes, the pickles and relish plates, the deviled eggs. Maybe a gelatin salad. Some members of the culinary cast were walk-ons--something new we were trying, like a different cheese stuffing for the celery, or a salad that the local garden club luncheon featured, but there were immutable main players, too. Meat, carrots, green beans, dinner rolls....and always, ALWAYS.....mashed potatoes. In mom's kitchen, they were whipped, not mashed, with loads of butter and whole milk and salt and pepper. And love.
They were always perfect.
And amid the sounds of clinking glasses, the shuffling of the silverware, the opening and closing, opening closing, opening closing of the refrigerator, was the whir of the hand mixer, and then a sound I will remember until memories no longer come...the metallic clunk of the beaters against the edge of that aluminum pot.
Clunk, clunk. Heaven.
It meant that dinner was ready. Dinner, and a beautiful bowl of heavenly potatoes, with pools of yellow melted butter atop. And a bowl of sliced scallions next to them. The way every potato in our home was adorned.
When I think of love personified, it looks, and sounds like a fluffy bowl of mashed potatoes and a plain aluminum pot.
While my best potato memories surround those perfect mashed potatoes, and the clunk of the aluminum pot, my Mother, and her mother, and her sister, and ME....we ALL loved potatoes. Their parents nicknamed my mother and aunt 'The Spud Sisters'. I think the whole family, perhaps due to Scots Irish descent, are potato devotees, too. Potatoes of any form. Steamed, boiled, baked, roasted, whipped, mashed, or fried--a bowl of any of the above is truly the original comfort food, and in my own mind, and habits, 'Nature's Prozac'. If Mom could be with me this evening, we might, like in years past, rent a movie, and whip up a delicious snack which would likely include potatoes and cheese in any form, and green onions, natch. Tonight, in honor of all those special times we've shared over potatoes, I'm going to unearth my DVD of 'Little Women' or 'The Music Man', and snuggle in with a snack I think Mom would love, and think of happy memories with, and miss, my Mom.
Life began with waking up and loving my mother's face.
quick vegetarian whey gravy
At a low simmer, dissolve 2 cubes of vegetarian bouillon in one cup of whey, left from cheesemaking. Raise temperature to a low boil, and slowly stir in 1/2 cup of cold whey to which has been added, shaken well, 1 tablespoon cornstarch. (I use this aluminum-free, non-gmo cornstarch.) Whisk well, season* to taste, and allow to thicken to desired consistency. Gravy will continue to thicken as it cools.
*we love a sprinkle of onion salt and smoked black pepper
“Pray for peace and grace and spiritual food, For wisdom and guidance, for all these are good, but don't forget the potatoes.” --John Tyler Pettee, 'Prayer and Potatoes'